Bud And The Painted Turtle


The Painted Turtle inside her shell.

Bud’s insistent barking got my attention.  By the time I got to the fence, he had dug under it.  Now he was just making it deep enough so he could get on the other side.

And right there at the edge of the hole, on the other side of the fence,  was a Painted Turtle.

Bud has never dug a hole so deep or long before.  It was because the turtle wasn’t moving that he had the time to focus, obsess and do the work to get to it.  I don’t know what he would have done if he got under the fence.  I don’t know if he could have hurt the turtle in her hard shell. Or if he would have found something else to chase.

Luckily I got to him in time.

I put Bud in the house, filled in the hole, and put a flat rock on top of it.  I figured the turtle would go away now that Bud was gone.

But when I checked on her about ten minutes later,  there she was again, her head poking at the fence as if she was trying to figure out how to get through it.

I’ve moved enough snapping turtles off of roads to know that you have to put them in the direction they are headed.  Otherwise, they will turn around and be back on the road again.

After all, they’re crossing the road for a reason, they know where they are going even if I don’t.

This time I went into the front yard and picked the turtle up. I figured she was headed toward the pond or looking for a place to lay her eggs.   She was of course going in the right direction, it’s just that our fence was in the way.

photo by Jon Katz

The turtle neatly tucked all her extremities inside her shell when I reached for her.  She fit nicely in my hand and, unlike some animals when you pick them up, she was still as a rock as I carried her.  I did take some time to look at the subtle marking on her shell. And I dragged my finger over the smooth, hard surface of her shell.

I brought the turtle to a patch of ferns growing in the barnyard on the edge of the marsh.  There I placed her on the ground in the direction she was headed.  Not wanting to bother her any further, I didn’t stay to watch her walk away.

A few weeks ago I saw a painted turtle laying her eggs near the pine trees I planted in the back pasture.  In the past, I’ve seen eggshells left behind by baby turtles. And when we first moved to the farm we were told that they used to call the hill above the marsh, Turtle Hill, because so many turtles used to sun themselves there.

I’ve seen four turtles on the farm, two of them this year.

Maybe that’s a sign that they are making a comeback.  I can still see the slight impression in the ground where I saw the turtle laying her eggs in the back pasture.  They won’t hatch for another couple of months.  I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to witness that,  but I may find pieces of their shells, which are soft, white, and look like ping-pong balls.

I guess in a way, I should be thankful that Bud saw the turtle.  She might still be trying to get through the fence if he didn’t.  But I’m also grateful that he didn’t get to her before I did.

2 thoughts on “Bud And The Painted Turtle

  1. Turtles. I had a dream about finding one and trying to persuade John that we should bring her home. The very next day he saw a painted turtle trying to cross a busy road to get to the pond on the other side. He stopped the cars and carried her across. At first I thought turtle was coming to me with the symbolism that she carries her home on her back and ours has been in such flux. Then the very next day we saw a hand painted sandwich board that said TURTLE NEST next to a sidewalk protecting the eggs under it. That was enough for me to look up the Native American symbology. Turtle energy has long represented healing and longevity. That was enough for me. I ordered a Zuni hand carved turtle fetish that I am now carrying with me everywhere. It might be a superstition but no matter I’ll take it. And then of course we saw another one This time it was both me and John and we helped her get to the pond where she was headed. They are everywhere this year. I have decided they have come for me

    1. When I look at the picture of the mountain lion of my fridge I think of you Ellen and how you wrote about your experience with the mountain lion after I had a dream about one. She came to you last time. Now Turtle is here. They are abundant this year and their symbolism is just right for you. I love that you and John helped the turtle together. But of course you would.

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